Mr. Ruben with the award and Donna Bird, IRMI President Jack Gibson (right), and Michael Feigin, Marsh Construction Global Practice Leader (left).
Restructured Safety Program Brings Alan J. Ruben of DRI Companies Results, Award
Faced with the need to change the way it operated in the workplace as well as modify the culture permeating the roofing business, the DRI Companies completely restructured their loss prevention and control techniques and processes. A significantly reduced workers compensation experience modifier provided a substantial reduction in workers compensation premiums over a 5-year period in spite of a tremendously increased payroll. The marketing clout from the lower modifier contributed to substantial revenue growth. But higher revenues and profits were not the only rewards.
These efforts are also now lauded throughout the construction risk industry, with the companies' receipt of the Gary E. Bird Horizon Award. Alan J. Ruben, Chief Financial Officer of DRI Companies, was presented with the award at the 26th IRMI Construction Risk Conference in San Diego. He was recognized for implementing numerous safety initiatives, policy changes, and the development of a patented tool to make the workplace safer.
The Gary E. Bird Horizon Award is presented annually by IRMI to recognize a demonstrated commitment to improving construction risk management through the implementation of innovative, cost-effective, and efficient risk management techniques.
The most effective and innovative feature of the winning submission is the invention and implementation of the WhirlieBirdTM fall arrest system (see photo at left and below right), in direct response to the companies' commitment to eliminate all chances of falls occurring. Unlike the rope grab system more commonly used in the roofing industry, the WhirlieBirdTM does not present its own set of risks from injury to the person wearing it and others nearby.
The other tool that contributed to the companies' success is the tri-cable system, which they developed to prevent falls on flat roofing projects.
Company officials note that these devices do increase costs, but the long-term benefit far outweighs the initial expense. Also, customers are beginning to demand use of the WhirlieBirdTM, adding to its marketing potential.
These tools are one facet of the companies' six-point plan. Other concepts, which are readily transferable to other companies and industries, include the following.
Learning/Training. It is imperative for all employees to understand the actual safety precautions to be implemented as well as the reasons for implementing them. Policies and procedures will constantly evolve as enhancements and refinements are discovered.
Rewards/Positive Reinforcement. All personnel involved in safety and claims management are eligible for monetary reward programs.
Punitive/Enforcement. Punitive action, up to and including termination, are what the companies call the "stick" portion of the "carrot and the stick" approach, with the expectation that all employees share the companies' values in this area. Still, company officials say the focus is on building strength in hiring and training.
Cost Control. Although the goal is zero claims, there is also as much emphasis on cost containment when an injury does occur as there is on preventing an incident.
Risk Sharing. Recognizing the state of the California workers compensation market, the companies' management was willing to take on a substantial portion of the risk.
The panel of industry experts selected by IRMI to judge the award submissions made perceptive comments about the winning submission. "This program is well rounded but not complicated, and any contractor could implement this accountability-based program," offered one judge. Another judge remarked that "to drive down claim costs the way this organization did is truly remarkable. A reduction in workers compensation claims from $1.4 million in Fiscal 2000 to $258K in Fiscal 2006 is amazing!" "Realizing that safety practices in their industry were not the best, they thought outside the box and created a new fall arrest device to help them achieve a safer work environment," commented a third judge.
The other finalists for the award were Rick Callor, Corporate Safety Training Director, Washington Group International (on behalf of the Washington Group International Safety Training Team); Jeff Hanesworth, Corporate Risk Manager, KS Industries, LP (on behalf of the KS Industries LP Team); Rick Maursetter, Risk Manager, Duininick Companies (on behalf of the Minnesota Highway Equipment Contractor Training Group); and Marsha K. Rinehart, Executive Vice President, Kokosing Construction Company, Inc.
Read the press release.